Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a press conference announcing a statewide stay-in-place order Friday, March 20. Credit: Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — Illinois’ confirmed cases of coronavirus neared 25,000 Wednesday as an additional 80 people died in the past 24 hours, state officials announced.

The state has now seen at least 948 deaths and 24,593 confirmed cases. The total number of confirmed cases grew by 1,346 in the past day.

Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have expressed optimism the number of cases is beginning to plateau, but Wednesday’s numbers demonstrated deaths and cases will continue to mount in large numbers.

“Make no mistake, even though we are flattening the curve, we still have a ways to go,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Remember, this is a marathon. We are seeing a slowed rate of increase.”

Pritzker, meanwhile, confirmed a report he has ordered millions of masks and gloves from China to be delivered in previously secret flights intended to escape the grasp of the U.S. government.

The Sun-Times reported the state sent more than $1.6 million to FedEx Trade Networks Transport for “aircraft charter flight to Shanghai, China for COVID-19 response. … Prepayment required.”

The flights were kept quiet, the paper reported, to avoid the Trump administration from seizing the personal protective equipment for the federal stockpile.

Pritzker, who has referred to the worldwide chase for personal protective equipment as “the Wild West” thanks to a lack of federal coordination, acknowledged he did it to make sure the flights made it back to Illinois.

“It is true that the federal government seems to be interrupting supplies that are being sent elsewhere,” the governor said. “I wanted to make sure we received what we ordered.”

Also Wednesday, Pritzker gave a grim assessment of the state’s budget, acknowledging it is buckling under the weight of the state’s response to coronavirus, including the decision to move the state income tax deadline from April 15 to July 15.

“Folks, you don’t need to be an epidemiologist to see the virus is going to hit our budget hard,” Pritzker said.

In the current fiscal year that ends June 30, Illinois is facing a $2.7 billion shortfall. And it gets worse next year, when state budget experts forecast a $6.2 billion budget gap. That could balloon to $7.4 billion if a graduated income tax that’s on the ballot for November isn’t approved, Pritzker said.

Though Pritzker did not lay out solutions to filling those holes, he said he and other governors are asking the federal government to step in and providing funding that will help states make up for what they’ve spent on and lost to coronavirus.

But Pritzker promised Illinoisans they will have a state budget, alluding to the difficult years the state went without one amid fighting between former Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic state Legislature. And he said he is still committed to protecting people who are suffering physically and financially from coronavirus.

“We will not go without a state budget,” Pritzker said. “We will need to make extraordinarily difficult decisions on top of the difficult decisions we’ve already made.”


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

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